The 25th Open Studio Tour

SOUTH NEWFANE — This is the weekend, July 15 and 16,  that the curious can tuck their heads behind the doors of some of southern Vermont's best artists' studios. It's the weekend to watch for yellow and black Open Studio signs in the villages of Newfane, Williamsville and South Newfane. And it's the time to linger on back roads and waterways, to wend the way among 14 different studios where artists welcome visitors' company and questions. It's the 25th year for the Rock River Artists' (RRA) Open Studio Tour.

"We started with a small group of local artists who got together to put on a show," recalls Christine Triebert, a photographer whose images have been represented by publishers in the US and Europe.. Trieber's prints are in collections of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Polo Ralph Lauren, Bank of America, The Ritz Carlton Hotel, and her work has been exhibited throughout New England and far beyond.

Triebert co-founded the Rock River Artists with Carol Ross in 1982. "The first Rock River Artist open studio event was a one-day offering that drew a mostly local audience." A tour that has since earned its following well beyond southern Vermont, 2017's features 14 accomplished artists in a range of media: Rob Cartelli, functional ceramics; Ellen Darrow, pottery; Dan DeWalt, custom furniture; Chris Ericson, furniture and jewelry; Richard Foye, raku pottery; Georgie, oil paintings; Rich Gillis, wrought iron work; Caryn King, paintings; Steven Meyer, paintings; Leonard Ragouzeos, painting and drawing; Roger Sandes, painting and prints; Deidre Scherer, thread on fabric; Matt Tell, pottery; Mary Welsh, collage, as well as Triebert.

Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. visitors are encouraged to start their RRA tour at the Old Schoolhouse in South Newfane village where participating artists present a group show. There one can pick up a map and begin a self-guided tour of the studios, all within short driving distance.

Painter Steven Meyer, new to the Rock River collective, is grateful to be in the fold. "I feel honored to now be a member of a talented group I have long admired." With a curious assortment of instruments, Meyer puts India ink to yopo paper in landscapes and whimsical characters "from my imagination and from toys I've created." Known as creative director for Mary Meyer Toys in Townshend, Meyer is clearly called to this new iteration of himself as a life-long artist. Paraphrasing Stephen Pressfield in The War of Art, Meyer knows, "Inspiration is for amateurs; professionals know you just have to sit down and get to work."

It was RRA's Leonard Ragouzeos who introduced Meyer to yopo paper as a vehicle. Ragouzeos creates large-scale ink paintings which focus on an individual or on a simple and important object such a hand tool revealing intriguing textural details. In a parallel and seemingly contradictory manner he's also been creating a series of small abstract gouache paintings informed by energetic patterns of landscape. "I love the activity of painting, regardless of scale, medium or subject matter. What happens between the hand, the tool, medium and surface as witnessed and guided by the eye is, itself, the act of being alive."

Attached to a sweet old gingerbread-trimmed home in Williamsville is the studio of thread-on-fabric artist Deidre Scherer. A mold breaker, Scherer recalled her days at Rhode Island School of Design where she experimented in various media while earning her certification for art education. She has been an artist her whole life inspired first by her father who, for 36 years, created dioramas for American Museum of Natural History in NYC. She would often play hooky from school to ride into work with her father to the museum where she'd explore with abandon. Several books and exhibitions later, she recalls that she first found her medium when her children were young. Avoiding the harmful fumes that oil painting would generate, she found her mode through thread on fabric in which she creates images that expose the beauty of the human condition — its fragility, its durability, its poignant soul.

Raku artist Richard Foye first discovered his calling in a pottery class as a senior majoring in philosophy at University of Vermont. Foye worked primarily with stoneware and porcelain before he experimented with raku, a Far Eastern technique he has come to favor for both its immediacy and its serendipitous results. The word raku loosely translates to "unexpected, joyful surprise." Each of Foye's creations resonates with that quality.

Roger Sandes was indelibly inspired on childhood visits to the Art Institute of Chicago. Sandes writes, "The images that are incorporated into my paintings are symbols of life, fertility and civilization — icons that have been an integral part of art in all cultures since primitive times. I assemble these images in ways that highlight their natural beauty and abstract form, and integrate or synthesize elements of modern art and folk art, nature and artifact."

Dan Dewalt is a fourth generation cabinetmaker whose commission work runs the gamut from reproductions to realizations of other designers' work, while his original creations evolve more organically. Surrounded by beautiful and unusual pieces of wood, he allows the shapes and quirks of the materials to guide the design process.

Caryn King's work is easy to spot for the winning nature of her subjects. "My paintings begin through a camera's lens," King explains, "as my models usually don't stand still for too long. Back in the studio my goal isn't to make a painted copy, but to express my love of each animal. The feathers of a chicken, the wool of a sheep, the floppy ears of a pig, are some examples of the remarkable visual elements that I strive to enhance to capture viewers' attention and, ultimately, an appreciation of each animal's individuality and spirit.

Start a RRA tour in South Newfane to meet these artists and their colleagues on this free excursion through some of the area's most stunning landscapes. To reach the Old Schoolhouse, drive eight miles north of Brattleboro on Route 30, go left on to Williamsville Road. At the end, turn left. Head west on Dover Road. Ease through Williamsville, through a covered bridge, and into South Newfane. The Schoolhouse is on the left. Tito's Taqueria of Brattleboro will be serving food in front of the Schoolhouse both days.

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